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The Michigan Republican-led Senate was set with the task of preventing future bullying from occuring and resulting in tragedy, like the suicide of Matt Epley, who committed suicide in 2002 after facing relentless bullying for years. Instead of protecting kids like Matt, the Senate disgracefully opened the doors to bullying by essentially endorsing certain types of harassment.

The "Matt’s Safe School Law" bill was approved 26-11, but Matt’s dad is ashamed of the bill. Specifically, while Republicans argue that all students would be protected equally under the law, the bill also contained language that the bill "does not infringe on constitutional rights" and that the legislation "does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction". Some Democrats argue that this clause leaves the door open to certain types of bullying, and that this bill will actually do more harm than good. For example, Senator Gretchen Whitmer maintains that the language could justify an anti-homosexual rant from a religious fundamentalist.

The Republican sponsor of the bill, Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) says that he could have done without the language, but that he understood some Republicans’ concerns over the protection of First Amendment rights. The anti-bullying legislation now moves to the Michigan house of representatives.

2 Comments

  1. Gravatar for CC

    Please explain what Senate Bill 137 does and doesn't mean. It now needs to pass the House right? I am confused and so are many others. Thanks.

  2. Senate Bill 137 is an attempt to address bullying (including "cyber-bullying") at school, on school busses, and at school-sponsored activities. If the bill becomes law, school districts will have to adopt specific guidelines for reporting incidents of bullying, informing parents of the children involved, and disciplining the bully. However, the bill contains a provision specifically exempting from reporting and punishment "a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian." As Senator Whitmer explained, this could open the door for a student -- or even a teacher or parent -- to proclaim that another pupil's sexual orientation is reprehensible, thus causing shame or apprehension for the target while escaping discipline for the bully.

    The text of the bill as well as some analysis can be found at http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2011-SB-0137.

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